(Photos: Simon Cudby and Andrew Fredrickson)
Down Goes Alessi
Mike Alessi seemed to have everything going in the right direction at the opening round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at Hangtown. He was back on the 450—the bike he always wanted to be on—he was hauling the mail in practice—setting the fastest lap time in the first timed session—and he was healthy. Then the walls came crashing down. Mike was putting down the hammer once again in the second practice, but took a huge soil sample, knocking himself out of the race and essentially out of title contention.
Marvin Musquin entered 2011 with more hype than a Justin Bieber concert. The two-time MX2 (250) Champion in the GPs (2009, 2010) was considered to be an instant threat to heavy 250 favorites like Tyla Rattray, Eli Tomac, Dean Wilson and Justin Barcia. Unfazed by the pressure, Marvelous Marvin put in a dazzling debut—working his way from the back to finish fifth overall via 4-6 moto scores. This despite crashing in moto two and starting nearly last! But the Musquin bandwagon was about to experience a mass exodus.
An alluring performance by Marvin Musquin at the opening round at Hangtown had title dreams dancing through the heads of the folks at KTM. Those dreams seemed even more like reality than fantasy at Freestone as Musquin settled into second behind Justin Barcia in the first moto. But faster than you can say Marv Attack, those title dreams were quickly shattered. In one of the most bizarre crashes of the year, Barcia nose dived in a corner, and his flipping Honda sent a Mike Tyson sized upper cut to Musquin in the form of his back tire. The crash would cost more Musquin more than the race, it would cost him a majority of the season due to a thumb injury.
A less than satisfactory supercross season left Andrew Short salivating to get back to the great outdoors, where he finished a career best third overall in 2010. But an already down year continued for Short early as he struggled to find his form. Beset by a failure to get up front early and a mechanical issue at Hangtown, Short seemed lost in the shuffle in a field loaded with talent. Although the Colorado native was still putting in solid results, he wasn’t running up front like he had in 2010. While Short is/was never one to blame the bike on his problems, the 350 never did seem to fit his style.
With an impenetrable sound, an aroma that can be detected from well beyond the fences and arguably the most passionate fan-base in the sport, the two-stroke will forever live in motocross lore. While the two-stroke is not quite extinct from the confines of an outdoor national, it is a rare spectacle to spot a pre-mixer zipping around the track nowadays. So when former Arenacross Champion Jeff Gibson lined the gate for the third round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at High Point Raceway on a KTM 250 SX the industry was a buzz. Gibson would finish a respectable thirty-second overall via 32-25 moto scores, under muddy conditions, feeding fuel to the two-stroke fire.
Another KTM rider ravished by injuries during 2011 was South Carolina native PJ Larsen. After winning two championships in Australia in 2010, Larsen was primed for a breakout season in his return to the States. But a number of injuries would set back the former AMA Horizon Award Winner, allowing him to compete in only three rounds outdoors. After missing the first six rounds of the series due to a scaphoid fracture to his right wrist, Larsen finally made his return at Millville. But his return was short lived. Larsen suffered a neck injury a few weeks later, ending his season for good.
Just when it looked like things couldn't get much worse for Andrew Short in 2011, they did. Short was practicing before the Southwick round when a he took a horrible spill, leaving him with two broken elbows and a broken wrist.
Succeeding in professional motocross is tough for any 18-year old. But for Tye Simmonds the task was made even more difficult being that he was thrown to the wolves in the 450 Class—instead of cutting his teeth in the 250 Class. Putting the not so sweet cherry on top, he lived half way around the world from his friends and family in Australia, and he was riding a 350, a bike which also had not agreed with Andrew Short. Simmonds had some bright spots and finished the season seventeenth overall in the point standings—nothing to be disappointed in—but he never look comfortable in his new surroundings. Simmonds is returning to Australia to head the JDR effort down under. But with a few more years of maturity we could be looking at a bon-a-fid superstar in the States.